Fletcher Flyer – The Sweetser Years

Year Six, Seven, Eight of the Fletcher Flyer 2009—2011

by Robbie Sweetser

It’s interesting to think back on my involvement with the Fletcher Flyer. Many things I have forgotten.

Robbie at StartMy initial involvement came when at the 2007 BRBC Christmas party Charlie Clogston asked for help on the 2008 Flyer. I offered to help out a little. Little is the key word! Little did I know Charlie was looking for someone to take over as ride director the following year and I was now director-in-training.

My responsibilities Flyer 2008 was as Fletcher Park coordinator, being on hand throughout the day to handle the needs of riders and park staff and help the event run smoothly. It was a good overview of what is required to put an event like this together. Arriving at the park about 5:30AM and cheering the last rider in about 6:00PM makes for a long day. Charlie was thrilled to pass the director baton and (don’t mention this to the park) open a bottle of champaign to toast the Fletcher Flyer success and encourage me on my new role as director. A role I continued for the next three years.

Building on the successes of past Flyers, our goal was to improve where possible and increase rider participation. Every year has seen an increase of riders. Starting in 2004 with 216 participants and growing to 745 in 2009. By 2011 the event had increased to 852 riders. Of interest to the planning types, those 852 bicyclists accumulated 64,600 miles ridden on a single hot June day. The century 100 attracted 45% of riders; 33% metric 62; 14% half century 50; and 7% eased onto the Fletcher Lite 30. Seventeen states were represented and one guy came from Perth, Australia to the US solely to join the Fletcher Flyer (that’s a fine bloke!)

On a typical Fletcher Flyer the riders leave Fletcher Park at 8:00AM. The first rider rolls in about 11:00 completing the 50 or 62 mile ride and the first century rider breaks the finish line by 12:45 for a pace of 21 mph! The last rider coasts in at 6:45, over 10 1/2 hours in the saddle. In 2011 that last rider was a Team-In-Training rider, who was a cancer survivor. He joined TNT and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to raise money separately from the Fletcher Flyer for blood cancer research. Several BRBC and TNT members were on hand to cheer this dedicated rider over the line. That year the TNT participants on the Fletcher Flyer raised over $306,000.

An event like the Fletcher Flyer could not be successful without the many hours of help given by our member volunteers. It takes approximately 130 people to coordinate all activities. The Western Carolina Bike Dealers are a blessing in undertaking the management and hosting of rest stops. Who better to take care of a weary rider than a bike expert?

Over the course of my involvement with the Fletcher we developed planning teams to manage specific areas of the event (even wrote out job descriptions), included a 30 mile ride option to encourage the BRBC Novice Riders to try their first event ride, moved into the digital world with virtual rider packets to reduce the clutter on ride day, and generally tried to remain sane over the six months per year it takes to host this event.

Riders at finishThat sanity was sometimes questioned, as I was the one who selected the yearly changing sock colors. Some didn’t appreciate the pink and baby blue 2010 socks. Never mind that the colors were truly raspberry and Carolina blue and looked really good on the web page. Then there are the yearly lunch comments that are looking for something other than the “girlie food.” They must not be from around here. The Fletcher Flyer is a great event. Please keep on coming out for the ride!